Ozzie Alonso

Seattle and Portland to renew pleasantries in MLS following heated USOC quarterfinal

Sounders FC vs. Portland Timbers

MLS Regular Season
Sunday, July 13; 7 pm PT; CenturyLink Field
TV/Radio: ESPN2; KIRO Radio 97.3 FM; ESPN Deportes Radio, 1490 AM (Spanish)

After all of the glitz and glamour of the 2014 FIFA World Cup dissipates on Sunday and a champion is crowned between Germany and Argentina, the dust will settle and soccer fans around the country will be looking for the next available outlet for their obsession.

That will come in the form of Sounders FC hosting the Portland Timbers at CenturyLink Field, with a crowd of over 60,000 expected in Seattle and many more watching on national television.  However, that spotlight doesn’t change what is at stake on the field, nor the focus of the teams involved.

“We know it’s three points.  We know it’s a league game.  We know it’s a Cascadia Cup game.  We know it’s our rivals,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said.  “Everything is there to play for.”

In the two meetings between the Sounders and Timbers thus far in 2014, the Cascadia clashes have lived up to the hype.

In the first matchup at Providence Park in April, Clint Dempsey scored a hat trick to carry the Sounders to a come-from-behind point in a 4-4 draw.  On Wednesday at Starfire in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal, a stoppage-time goal by Darlington Nagbe forced extra time, but Seattle took control in the second period and won, 3-1, to advance to its fifth semifinal in six years.

“The first game was 4-4, then 120 minutes.  It’s hard to top that,” Sounders FC defender Chad Marshall marveled.  “I’m sure Sunday will be crazy too.”

The first MLS match between the two sides came amidst a poor start for the Timbers, who went 0-3-5 over their first eight matches.  With a 4-2-4 record since, Portland’s fates have changed dramatically.

A portion of that has come with the addition of forward Fanendo Adi.  The 6-foot-4 Nigerian striker has given the Timbers a new dynamic to the offense and he has responded with four goals and two assists in eight matches.  Seattle got its first look at him on Wednesday in the Open Cup, and the defense is ready for what he brings to the field.

“He’s a big body.  He uses his height well.  He positions himself well.  He’s got good pace and he’s got good size,” Schmid said.  “He stays up top so it gives them a good focal point.  He’s been a good addition for them.”

While Portland has added Adi, Seattle will see the return of a great scoring threat of its own with Clint Dempsey coming back from his time at the World Cup, where he scored two goals to help the U.S. National Team reach the Round of 16.

Dempsey was the league’s top scorer with eight goals in nine matches when he left to join the U.S. squad in May, and even in his absence Seattle went 4-1-1.  Now with his talent and leadership back in camp, Sounders FC is optimistic that it can keep distancing itself from the pack in the Supporters’ Shield standings.

“It’s great to have him back.  Obviously he’s an important player for us,” Marshall said.  “Hopefully he can find that form that he had for us before he left with the national team and score goals.  I’m sure he will.”

The 7 pm PT kickoff will be greeted with fanfare and anticipation.  And while Schmid is confident that his team will remain insulated from the pomp and circumstance surrounding the match, he also knows that there is an inevitable dynamic to Seattle-Portland matches that has been evident clear back to the North American Soccer League in 1975.

“It’s going to be a hard game.  It’s going to be a physically demanding game.  We’ve got to be ready to put in a good shift and work hard,” Schmid said.  “It’s something we’re looking forward to.”